Although crime can happen to any person, some people are more vulnerable than others. Immigrants are often at high risk for certain kinds of criminal activity. People may target immigrants because of a language barrier or because there’s an assumption that they won’t know how to use the legal system to protect themselves and seek justice.
Especially when one person’s presence in the country technically depends on their relationship with another person, the citizen or permanent resident that helps someone enter the United States might abuse their perceived authority. A person may become physically abusive toward a spouse, child or any other family member that they believe cannot leave regardless of what they do.
Thankfully, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) gives immigrants an opportunity to leave abusive relationships. There are two main ways that VAWA can help those fleeing domestic violence.
It protects your right to stay in the country
The rules outlined in VAWA help abused family members legally separate themselves from the person mistreating them. If the abuser is a lawful permanent resident, their spouse or children can petition for immigrant classification based on the abusive relationship. If the abuser is a citizen, then parents can potentially also file paperwork, as well as the spouse or children of the citizen.
If the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves someone’s filing, that individual can secure a green card and become a permanent resident.
It can help you secure public benefits
Those who would like to flee an abusive relationship often do not have any resources to support themselves at first. Those approved after self-petitioning because of domestic violence become qualified aliens in most cases.
Typically, only the parents of abusive citizens would not become qualified aliens who can apply for and receive certain state benefits while leaving the abuse of situation and trying to reestablish their lives. Such benefits can make a big difference for someone who worries about their ability to feed their children or house themselves.
Although it can take a lot of courage and preparation to make use of VAWA to leave an abusive person, your future may be much brighter if you take steps for your own protection now. Learning more about VAWA and other special immigration laws can help those who want to stay in the United States despite their current struggles.